Boris Johnson ally denies claim he was barred from Scottish conference

An ally of Boris Johnson has denied claims he was prevented from appearing at the Scottish Conservative conference.

Ross Thomson MP did confirm the Tory leadership hopeful would be visiting Aberdeen soon.

The former foreign secretary will make a campaigning visit to the city next week.

Asked whether Johnson had been blocked from appearing at the conference in Aberdeen, Ross Thomson MP said: “No, no, those who are speaking at conference have been in the diary for a very, very long time.

“This is not some sort of leadership beauty parade.”

Mr Johnson will attend a fundraising dinner for Mr Thomson, who added: “I think it’s pretty well known that Boris is coming to Scotland and that’s a great thing.”

It was reported Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson – who has clashed with Mr Johnson in the past – rejected overtures from the former Mayor of London to appear at the conference.

Asked about who she would back in a leadership contest, Ms Davidson said she will support whoever will champion Scotland as the next Conservative leader when Theresa May steps down.

With the Prime Minister having pledged to step aside when her Brexit deal is passed by Parliament, the Scottish Conservative leader – who has just returned to work after being on maternity leave – said she would consider who would “advance Scotland’s interests within the United Kingdom”.

Ms Davidson also stressed the importance of the next Tory leader being able to “bring the UK back together after Brexit because that’s been as divisive for the whole UK as independence has been here in Scotland”.

Speaking as the conference got under way, Ms Davidson said there was no vacancy at present with Mrs May having only so far “given a broad timetable for the point at which she will leave”.

But she told the Northsound 1 radio station: “When that happens, when we see the candidates that are put forward, the things that I will look for as leader of the Scottish Conservatives are I want someone who is going to strengthen and have a commitment to the United Kingdom, to advance Scotland’s interests within the United Kingdom and also crucially who wants to bring the UK back together after Brexit because that’s been as divisive for the whole UK as independence has been here in Scotland.

“That’s what I want to see and I’ll assess the candidates when they put their names forward.”

Pressed on whether that would exclude Mr Johnson, she recalled how in the last leadership contest he “didn’t get across the start line” and stand for the post.

“So we’ll see what the field is and then I will make my decision,” she said.

We’re all set for the start of our 2019 conference – just follow #SCC19 to keep up to date with what’s going on

— ScotConservatives (@ScotTories) May 3, 2019

She also said she was hopeful the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal could still find support from MPs, saying there had been a “marked change in the mood music” from talks in London between her party and Labour.

The Scottish Tory leader said she would give the PM “absolutely 10 out of 10 for effort and application and tenacity” in her handling of the negotiations.

She added: “In terms of trying to get people who have become more and more entrenched to compromise was always going to be a tough ask.

“But what we’re hearing at the moment is these talks that are going on in London, we’ve seen a marked change in the mood music coming out of the room and I’m genuinely hopeful that there is a middle ground we can coalesce around to make sure there is an orderly Brexit.”